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Asuman Basalirwa to consult on counterfeits bill 2023

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Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa says is to begin public consultations into the Anti-Counterfeits Bill 2023.   In July 2023, Asuman Basaliwa succeeded in securing leave of Parliament to allow him to introduce “The Anti-Counterfeit Bill, 2023.”

The object of the law is to pro­hibit trade in goods that in­fringe upon pro­tected in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights; to re­quire in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights to cover only copy­right and trade­marks and to pro­hibit re­lease of coun­ter­feit goods for commercial gains.

Baslairwa revealed that consultations shall last three months beginning April 2024, and will take place at selected locations in the Central, Eastern, Northern, and Western regions of Uganda.

The motion for the introduction of the Bill was seconded by Soroti City West Division MP, Jonathan Ebwalu, and Derrick Orone of Gogonyo Constituency.

Basalirwa then told Parliament that the country needed the proposed law to fight against the proliferation of counterfeit and pirated goods and services into the market.

The distribution of counterfeits according to Basalirwa was undermining legitimate trade and was causing significant financial losses for rights holders and, in some cases, providing a source of revenue for organized crime.

Basalirwa explained that the lack of effective enforcement mechanisms for intellectual property rights holders has negatively affected the exploitation of intellectual property rights and reversed the gains made by Uganda in the registration, creation, and exploitation of intellectual property rights.

Basaliwa, a lawyer-turned politician has secured the backing of the Anti-Counterfeit Network (ACN) in promoting public consultations   Anti-Counterfeit Network (ACN) Africa is a private sector organization that aims to bridge the intervention gaps between the multiple stakeholders that affect and are affected by counterfeits and parallel importation.

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Asuman Basalirwa and Fred Muwema, Chairman of the Anti-Counterfeit Network Africa addressed a joint press conference in Kampala.

“Members of the public including brand owners, regulators, and consumers are encouraged to participate in this process which is an important milestone in fighting against counterfeits and protecting legitimate businesses”, said Basalirwa.

He explained that currently, Ugandans are facing an economic squeeze, but this squeeze is being compounded by counterfeits which he said are destroying all productive sectors of the economy and driving youth unemployment to unbearable levels.

Fred Muwema, said the Anti-Counterfeits Bill is a timely intervention against counterfeits which has been in the waiting for more than 10 years.

“Everyone in Uganda is a victim of counterfeits including the counterfeiters themselves because they also suffer the same effects of other counterfeit products which they do not manufacture,” said Muwema.

Muwema estimated that the devastating effects of counterfeits and substandard products on public health and the economy are too severe to ignore, noting that more than 1/3 of our national budget 2023/24 of 52.7 trillion is wasted due to counterfeits.

This is not the first that Uganda has tried to introduce a law to fight counterfeits. The Ministry of Trade and Industry drafted the Anti-Counterfeits Bill 2009.

In October 2015, the then Minister for Trade and Industry, Amelia Kyambadde tables in Parliament the Anti-Counterfeiting Goods Bill 2015. She said there is a need for a law to control or prohibit the manufacture and marketing of counterfeit goods that infringe on Intellectual Property Rights (IPRS)

The Bill led to mixed reactions from legal experts, access to medicine activists, and experts in trade-related intellectual property rights under the World Trade Organization (WTO). While the movers and experts have generally agreed that there was a need to fight fake and counterfeit products from the market, they have disagreed on the definition of what constitutes a counterfeit.

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Coalition for Health Promotion and Social Development (HEPS- Uganda), an NGO that promotes health and socioeconomic rights has over the years argued that if the law is not well-crafted in terms of definition, it could put the lives of many Ugandans who depend on generic anti-retroviral and other medicines in danger.      Some lawyers have said such a law would be redundant once it includes aspects like trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade secrets already covered in other laws.

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